The underlying value proposition for BYOD in the enterprise is undeniable, and it is already having a profound impact on many enterprises. Today, the question is no longer if BYOD should be implemented but how it should be implemented, and what part it should play in the strategic vision of the enterprise.
Standing still is not a practical option
Recent Ovum research indicates that the BYOD horse has already bolted. In every country surveyed, Ovum found the number of enterprises using BYOD (whether planned or not), far exceeds the number of enterprises with procedures to manage its use. The time has come to catch up, realign management procedures and harvest the benefits.
The community has taken to personal mobile devices at a rate rarely seen with other technologies. In a 2012 report, the World Bank observed that mobile technology had arguably become the world's most ubiquitous modern technology. It is therefore not surprising that these devices have quickly found their way into the workplace.
Concurrent with these changes, other forces have been at play. The boundary between work and personal time has continued to evaporate. Work is just one part of the complex life we all lead. It is no longer practical to artificially separate the way we organise our work lives, and our private lives.
In our complicated existence, there is no longer a place for disconnected work and personal diaries, and separate mobile tools. Technically enabled workers are now clamouring for more productive tools that match the tools available in their personal lives. Against this background, BYOD is a natural fit. BYOD has become an irresistible force.
Many organisations have been experimenting with alternate solutions
COPE (Corporately Owned, Privately Enabled) is proving to be a popular solution in certain situations. This is particularly the case for a number of regulated industries, or for addressing the needs of some externally facing roles.
There are big savings for some types of work, if the BYOD devices can be used to replace fixed line phones, as well as existing mobile devices. In such cases, COPE may be the best policy as it provides a simple solution to practical problems such as: Who owns the phone number? What happens to client contacts when the staff member departs? Who ultimately decides conditions of use?
However COPE does have some significant disadvantages. For example, it is difficult for many enterprises to keep up with the multitude of personal devices on the market. Also, many staff are already locked into personal phone plans. These can limit the value of corporate phone contracts and the theoretical value of COPE. On balance, BYOD appears to offer a pragmatic solution that meets most general usage requirements.
Mobile technology is morphing to more than just phones and tablets
While smartphones and tablets continue to dominate the mobile market, it would be a mistake to limit strategic technology plans only to the use of such devices. Embedded technology is beginning to create new opportunities for business innovation and job redesign.
One such example is the development of the Concept Car for the Western Australian Police. Mobile technology is no stranger to police forces around the world. Smartphones and car mounted laptops have been in use for many years. However there are practical limits to the number of devices an officer can refer to without being weighed down or distracted from the very duties these devices were meant to assist with.
The concept car provides an innovative rethink of the problem by embedding intelligence into the car. This reduces the technology burden on officers, while adding new services. The car itself becomes a data scoop that collects information about its surroundings while making online enquires to central support systems. Activities can include number plate registration checks and situational threat analysis. Police officers only need to become involved when action is required.
The real value of mobile lies in workplace reform
Smartphones, tablets and BYOD are already delivering significant productivity improvements in the way work is performed in the enterprise, but these are just steps along the journey. Over time these technologies will continue to evolve and change. However these productivity gains will be lost, unless these gains are realised through workplace reform. This requires IT to build partnerships within the enterprise to drive reform, not just the technology that enables it.
Kevin Noonan is a research director in Ovum's government practice. Email comments firstname.lastname@example.org